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In today’s day and age, websites are brimming with online catalogs. Stores like Forever 21, Zara and even H&M are all affordable places where people can get fashionable and trendy clothing at a low cost. This low cost, up to date, clothing is made possible by fast fashion. Fast fashion is a term used to describe affordable clothing produced rapidly in response to the newest trends. Although it may be argued that fast fashion is necessary for developing countries to be lifted out of poverty through employment in the fashion industry, ultimately fast fashion is unethical and society should replace it with other ethical alternatives such as second-hand shopping and eco-friendly laundry due to the detrimental impacts on the environment and the exploitation of workers.
To begin with, some say fast fashion aids second world countries in becoming more developed. Fast fashion often relies on sweatshops where workers in low developing countries work for long hours accompanied by low wages oftentimes in hazardous conditions. Most of the time, agricultural countries attempt to industrialize by constructing more factories that help to provide jobs that contribute to economic development. Brittany Hunter a writer for the Foundation for Economic Education cites Stephan Spath in her article “Banning sweatshops only hurts the poor” that when millions of people move away from subsistence living and into urban areas where factories are able to provide wages that allow for individuals to produce surpluses which can then be invested and spent, nations are able to rise out of poverty. However, although fast fashion does provide jobs ultimately fast fashion exploits workers by paying extremely low wages in dangerous conditions leaving laborers better off working at home rather than in these abysmal factories. This is because laborers are at less risk of getting injured from home while working, rather than working in these factories. Further proving the idea that sweatshops do not care for their workers. In another article titled “Clothing made for Next to Nothing. Worn by You?” by Elizabeth Paton, Paton investigates a new report by the University of California, Berkley where many women and children were interviewed about the exploitative conditions of workers. The report found“ninety-nine percent were paid less than the minimum wage under Indian law which varies from 39 cents per hour to $1.05 per hour”. Thus illustrating the money that these women acquire is not enough to make a living off of. Part of the reason for this is the government does not regulate wages allowing for companies to profit by underpaying their workers. Ultimately resulting in citizens of developing countries not economically progressing since wages are simply not enough to make a living off of, hence citizens are not able to earn the extra cash needed to be invested since they must fend for themselves first. Additionally, the horrendous working conditions of individuals has been proven to be deadly. Gloria Matheson recounts in her article ‘Fast Fashion Culture Repeatedly Proven to be Dangerous’ of the 2013 collapse of the Rana building in Bangladesh where over one thousand garment workers died and thousands more were injured. The incident would have been prevented had the company listened to workers who noticed cracks on the walls the day before, yet were still told to come in the next day which was “a clear signal that the company valued its profit as opposed to its workers’ lives”. In attempts to prevent hazardous working conditions, many factories have attempted to fix these precarious circumstances by following standard government codes, yet this only recently became the case due to fast fashion companies receiving backlash after the 2013 collapse. Regardless there is still risk involved since a vast majority of multinational corporations’ interests lie at creating profit for their brand name, consequently, in order to do this, they must resort to unscrupulous actions such as providing cheap working conditions that ultimately harm people.
Moreover, fast fashion hurts the already decaying planet by coaxing consumers to throw away their old clothes for more trendier ones. Fast fashion revolves around its ability to create clothing at an almost inhuman speed. By producing clothes almost weekly, consumers are tempted to buy new clothing, meaning older clothing is more likely to get tossed in the trash. Kamal Baher states in his article “All what Your Jeans can (and do) Hide!” that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is dumped into a landfill or burned every second. There is no question fast fashion contributes to the effects of climate change through the burning of articles of clothing. Owing to the fact that setting fire to anything leads to carbon emissions in the atmosphere which in turn prompts climate change or the long term rise in the average temperature of the earths’ climate thus, fast fashion aids in destroying the environment. Additionally albeit clothing is recyclable, the amount produced has outstripped people’s capacity to recycle it. Booth Moore quotes Andrew Morgan in his article’Unnatural Fit; ‘the True Cost’ Documentary Tallies the Devastating..’ how the average American discards “eighty-one pounds” of clothing every year and only ten percent of what gets donated is sold in thrift shops. Nevertheless millions of people still buy new clothes every day despite not needing them. Hence why fast fashion should be regarded with contempt. Moreover, oftentimes when looking at the tags of clothing the first material seen is polyester, which according to Hodakel Boris in his article titled “What is polyester fabric” polyester is a type of plastic which requires fossil fuels to create. As a result, this contributes to the global plastic problem and depletes the already finite number of non-renewable resources. Additionally Baher states when people wash their clothes, almost seventy thousand microscopic fibers often find their way into the ocean. Meaning all kinds of animals including turtles are being intoxicated and dying, leading to less biodiversity in the environment and the disruption of food chains as wholes. This disruption in the food chain directly affects humans especially fish and sushi lovers. Because fish use water for oxygen, and that water contains microscopic fibers, fish will consume them, resulting in humans also consuming them. Finally, fast fashion leads to millions of toxins being dumped out into rivers as stated by Kelly Drennan:
On average, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That is enough water for one person for 900 days. An estimated 17 to 20 percent of total industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment — and approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles.
This validates the idea of fast fashion polluting the already limited fresh water supply. In many developing countries, freshwater is limited and is used carefully, yet for Americans, water is at the tip of their hands and they do not have to worry about where their water supply is going to come from. Moreover, the water developing countries do have is limited meaning whatever they receive, they receive. So if that means the water is polluted they’re going to have to make do with what they have. Which costs lives since developing countries can not afford to buy purifying water machines that will make the water safe to drink. Further proving the point that fast fashion should be reevaluated since it creates more pollution, and endangers animal and human lives.
Last but not least there are alternate methods to alleviate the environmental costs by being more eco-friendly when doing the laundry, as well as criticizing the unethical behavior of sweatshops through the consumption of secondhand clothing. In American elementary schools children are taught to use the three R’s or to reduce, reuse and recycle. Drennan states “…of the eighty-five percent of clothing dumped into landfills only fifteen is collected and reused”. Thus demonstrating if more people were to buy second-hand clothing then the pollution footprint of clothing would drastically decrease. Moreover, if society second-hand shops more often even if it means buying clothes that were initially made in sweatshops, people are not directly oiling the machine that runs fast-fashion retailers since most thrift stores donate their profits to charities. Secondly taking care of clothes in a more eco-friendly way leads to an extended time in which clothes can be worn. For example, by doing full loads of laundry and hanging clothes to dry, less water is wasted and more clothes are washed. This leads to less pollution of the oceans by microscopic plastic fibers. Moreover, hanging clothes to dry helps to extend the warranty of clothes especially jeans. The matter of the fact is there are more sustainable methods of acquiring clothes without buying from fast-fashion retailers which are overall immoral and unscrupulous.
Affordable and trendy clothes are at the tip of society’s fingers. Computers allow people to shop online at fashion brands like H&M, yet these tycoons are often the cause of millions of people exploited in sweatshops. Although it may be argued fast fashion is a necessity to raise developing countries out of poverty ultimately it is unethical and society should regard it with contempt through the use of other more sustainable alternatives in particular by doing laundry in an ecofriendly way and by shopping at second-hand stores.
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